So you've decided to go natural...

Saturday, February 12, 2011 10:00 AM

November 2010
This post is for all the lovely ladies who over the past year have asked me questions about transitioning. There are so many resources online from bloggers who have done way more research and been at it way longer than me, so I never thought it would be helpful to anyone for me to do a "Transitioning 101" type of post. And yet, I still get questions and I really want to help. So, this post is my attempt to pull together my favorite resources from around the web and add in some of my personal thoughts from my own experiences without recreating the wheel.  I hope it proves to be helpful.

Relaxed - Fall 2005 (Preggers!)
I decided to grow out my relaxer because my hair was damaged and thin, and it seemed like a logical way to achieve thicker, stronger hair.   You can click here for my hair story.  Once you decide to stop relaxing your hair, the first thing you must do is prepare yourself for an emotional roller coaster.  Treasured locks gives a great, high level overview here.  Many things that you know about caring for your relaxed hair won't apply to your natural hair.  It's so helpful to connect with other women who are going through the same changes.  Curly Nikki shares transition stories from her readers here

By the time I found all the natural hair and transitioning websites online, I'd already been growing my hair out for almost three years.  I was using the same products and methods that I always had when I was relaxed.  Despite the fact that I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't have a great deal of breakage.  I mostly wore my hair pressed straight throughout my transition.   I encourage you to stick with what works for you, even if you read that it's not "good" or that others with your hair type don't do it.  Of course feel free to experiment, but don't abandon methods or products that work for you without good reason.  For example, if Blue Magic keeps your hair moisturized, keep using it.  But at the same time, be open to trying new things and you might discover that there are other options that do a better job.

The first things I noticed were all the abbreviations and new terminology associated with transitioning and natural hair.  I was pretty lost until I found a convenient dictionary here, and in no time I was talking the talk. 
Twist and Curl - Early 2009

Many naturals will use hair typing to help identify products that are more likely to work for them, and to determine styling options that work for other women with that hair type.  You will see women say they are 3C, 4A, 4B etc.  I'm not crazy about hair typing, but I understand that it can be helpful for this purpose.  Just please keep in mind that what works for someone else may not work for you, no matter if you consider your hair type to be the same as theirs or not. 

There are a couple things to consider when evaluating your hair type.  Are the individual strands thick or fine?  Does your hair appear thick (density) because you have a lot of it, but the strands are thin?  That's me.  Is your hair very porous?  If so, you may have a hard time maintaining moisture until you learn to manage the porosity level.  Getting a grasp on these characteristics of your hair will help you determine its needs.

Dominican Blowout  - Fall 2009
 A key concept that I learned early on was HOW to moisturize my hair. When I was relaxed, the concept of less is more prevailed because otherwise my hair would be weighed down and stiff.  I never used leave-in conditioners when I was relaxed.  With natural hair, (well, mine anyway) it's essential to include moisture in every step of my hair process.  If you remember nothing else, remember to moisturize your hair with a water-based product and then seal with an oil or butter product like coconut oil or shea butter.  This post covers this topic well.

You will absolutely want to bookmark Mane and Chic's Hair 101 - Beginner's guide.  She has links from around the web for EVERYTHING in one post from washing techniques, to common hair problems like shedding to trimming and styling and more. 

If you don't like to do research and experiment, you may struggle to enjoy your transition.  I suggest that you keep your mind open and really give yourself to the process.  It's just like deciding to stop eating meat and embrace a vegan diet.   It's a life change and you must do your homework, try new things and see how your body (in this case, your hair) reacts to it.

Early 2010 (Preggers again!)
Styling is a huuuge issue for new and transitioning naturals.  I love this post by Chai where she dispells the myth of the wash and go.  Not everyone who is natural is able to rock this style successfully.  The name itself implies a quick, no-fuss style, but for most of us, it's anything but that!  While I do indulge in the occasional wash and go, my hair gets way too knotty in this style, so I prefer stretched styles. 

Fleurtzy of Texture Playground gives a great video tutorial here of how to develop a routine that is based on your hair goals.  This overview by the Think and Grow Chick is also extremely helpful for tips on how to build a solid regimen and here she demystifies some basic aspects of hair care that need to be approached differently for natural haired ladies.

My routine is constantly evolving. It changes with the seasons, hair growth and setbacks, changes in my lifestyle (having babies!) and with changing goals.  I've learned that my hair is sensitive to protein treatments (becomes dry and hard), but when I don't use any protein at all, my hair becomes sort of weak and flimsy and lacks strength.  Now, I use some products with light protein, and I've learned that my hair responds well to periodic henna treatments as long as I do a thorough deep conditioning afterwards.  Trial and error.

Hopefully, this post will connect you with helpful information for your journey.  Above all, make sure that you have fun with your hair and don't take it too seriously.    So, what have I missed?????  Please add your two cents in the comments!!!

Fall 2010

More Helpful Links:
5 of the Most Underrated and Overlooked Natural Hair Practices
Top Tools Used to Detangle Natural Hair
How to Transition - A Partial Primer